Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Trenton) on Monday introduced a new bill would block a repeat of 1981’s infamous Ballot Security Task Force.
The measure would bar district election board from requesting law enforcement be stationed at polling places, prevent such officers from being assigned to enforce election laws or help carry ballot boxes and make law enforcement officials ineligible to sit on district boards of elections or as challengers.
“We are in unprecedented times in this nation,” Reynolds-Jackson said. “A voter’s right to cast their ballot in person may very well be jeopardized as made clear in the commentary by the President. Voter intimidation tactics and suppression has no place in New Jersey. We’ve seen the punitive effects of these anti-civil rights strategies in other states as well as in New Jersey in the past.”
In 1981, the Republican National Committee recruited teams composed of armed off-duty police and sheriffs officers in primarily non-white, Democratic neighborhoods.
The move prompted a lawsuit from the Democratic National Committee, which claimed the task force illegally harassed and intimidated voters, both violations of the Voting Rights Act.
The suit ended with a consent decree barring further such deployments that lapsed in Jan. 2018, and some Democrats now worry that President Donald Trump could move to adopt similar tactics for November’s election.
“Misusing the state’s law enforcement agencies to send messages of intimidation is a partisan ploy to suppress participation in the voting process,” Reynolds-Jackson said. “Residents must always feel safe when going to a polling place and free to cast their ballot.”
The bill has not yet been referred to a committee.